Popa’s praise for departing Wanderers star

Western Sydney coach Tony Popovic has paid tribute to Shannon Cole and left the door open for a return to the club.

The foundation Wanderers player will play his final game for the club against Shanghai in the Asian Champions League tonight.

Transfer news: foundation player departs Wanderers

A FITTING FAREWELL

“He'll lead the players out – he’ll be captain,” Popovic revealed to media ahead of the game.

“It's a fitting send-off for such a player for our football club and also for his contribution here in Australia.

“Shannon was one of the first players signed and we've been through a lot together.

“It's fitting that his final game for the club will be tomorrow here in Sydney.

“I'm honoured to have been his coach.

“It's been a fantastic five years together with so many highs.

“Hopefully in the next five years we can replicate the success we've had in the first five,” he added.

CAPTAIN COLE

Cole made 53 Hyundai A-League appearances for the Wanderers across five seasons.

He also played a key role in the club’s 2014 AFC Champions League triumph, scoring three goals and being named in the Team of the Tournament.

But tonight will be the first time Cole has worn the captain's armband during his time in Wanderland.

“I'm very grateful for that honour and I'm looking forward to enjoying it with the boys,” he said.

“It's been a very special ride for me from day one – to build a club from nothing and experience some incredible highs.

“But it can't last forever and I'm really excited for a new challenge.

“This is a good time for us to part ways and [tonight] is a great opportunity to end that portion of the journey on a positive note,” said Cole.

A RETURN TO RED AND BLACK?

And Popovic dropped a strong hint that Cole might be back in a different capacity in the future.

“It's not the end of our association with Shannon – I think he knows that and understands that,” Popovic said.

“Shannon will either be looking from a distance if he's playing elsewhere and hopefully when he doesn't play any longer he'll be a big part of our club in a different role.”

“That's in the future,” said Cole.

“Let's enjoy [tonight] for what it is.

“We'll let the Wanderers enjoy their next journey and I'll do the same.

“When our paths cross again we can have another chat about that,” he smiled.